‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ John O’Donohue
Consider this surprise. Astrology textbooks tell you that the planets from Jupiter outwards move so slowly by progression that their shifts are of no consequence. On the very day in June 2016 that my third house Jupiter moved by secondary progression from life-long occupancy of Scorpio into Sagittarius, I was offered a large library of astrology books from a university lecturer whose wife, a keen student of astrology, had recently died.
“Phoebe” a participant in the 1997/8 research I did on Jupiter/Uranus conjunctions, started piano lessons for the first time and became very interested in fashion/image in 1997, the year her natal Neptune in Libra went direct by secondary progression. No doubt readers could add their own examples of progressed planetary effects which supposedly are of no consequence!
I am very well aware that there are several ways of progressing a horoscope which are no doubt valid. However, traditional Secondary Progressions or SPs as I shall now call them for short, are the only type which have consistently spoken to me with great accuracy. These are calculated by moving the planetary positions in the ephemeris for the day of birth forward one day for every year of a person’s life, offering a means of determining the timing, and understanding the meaning, of significant developmental points in that individual’s unique unfolding journey.
In this article, I am not proposing to reinvent the astro-wheel by offering detailed tuition on what SPs are, how to calculate them, work with them, and relate them to whatever transits may be in operation at any given time. There is plenty of information of that type available on the Web, as a quick Google search will reveal. However, my USA colleague Dawn Bodrogi in my estimation has done the finest recent work on the topic. You can find her writing at The Inner Wheel (1).
Instead, my aim is to offer a personal reflection on Secondary Progressions, continuing in the same spirit as the opening paragraph. I’d like to share my clients’ experiences of those mysterious symbolic tools, as well as my own. My observations are also offered to experienced practitioners in such a way that they can take a moment: to step back from their astro-toolkit and be freshly awestruck by the essential Mystery which SPs evoke.
Most of all, I’d like to intrigue and inspire readers who are fairly new to astrology to begin their own journey into this misty, awesome territory.
From the time I discovered SPs as a Faculty of Astrological Studies student in the 1980s, they have fascinated me. This fascination was amplified as I slowly became an experienced astrology teacher, using my classes (as you do) for the brilliant qualitative research opportunities ‘on the hoof’ that they undoubtedly provide.
When you first go round a class of a dozen students, tracking their Suns changing signs by secondary progression, discovering their corresponding life changes as well as your own, it does rather cause you to scratch your head – after you and your students have come down from the sheer buzz of it all – and ask “But why does astrology work ?And why does a purely symbolic technique like SPs seem to work too ?”
Help is at hand – from quantum science
Good questions, which astrologers have been asking for centuries, millennia probably, ever since those Chaldean priests on their chilly watchtowers scanned the night skies for helpful advance warning signs that their kings and kingdoms were under threat. I do not propose in this short article to add to the vast amounts of erudite speculation which has arisen from such questions.
However, very briefly, my conclusion is this: modern science has demonstrated that we live, move and have our being as part of a vast energy field which ripples and changes in a sinuous, shapeshifting dance between order and chaos, order arising out of apparent disorder, in invisible patterns which would appear to hold 4 % matter, 23 % dark matter, and 73 % dark energy together in a vast cosmic web.
I think that astrology works by tracking and mapping those energy patterns through planetary cycles against the backdrop of either the constellations via sidereal astrology, or our more familiar tropical astrology which is pegged to the ecliptic. By a blend of astronomical calculation, mythic imagination, intuition, and observation of correlations between life on Earth and planetary movements over millennia, humans arrived at a way of deriving meaning from the energies generating the solar system, our tiny corner of that vast cosmic web.
It is no surprise that reductionist thinking cannot cope with the possibility that something of great value to the human project could have arisen from this eclectic weave.
There are several ways in which one can creatively reflect upon that 4%, 23% and 73 % ratio. I like to think of it in terms of the worlds of consciousness, personal unconscious and collective unconscious, finding Jung’s term ‘psychoid’ very useful in enabling me to make sense of energies which can and do manifest simultaneously, all the way from very obvious and tangible to being highly influential in a person’s life although invisible to the wider world.
For example, consider the client I saw some years ago with a dominant Saturn square Neptune aspect in his horoscope. “James” ’ profession was highly tangible: he made musical instruments. But a significant factor in the unfolding pattern of his life, also linked to that Saturn/Neptune square, was his having had to survive growing up with a severely alcoholic father. Being very aware of an inherited tendency to indulge in addictive escapist behaviours, he was trying to address this when he came for a consultation – as his secondary progressed Sun triggered natal Saturn square Neptune.
I think that an important part of the creative value of being a practising astrologer lies in helping clients like James to understand, accept and work constructively with the shape-shifting potential inherent in the particular energies with which they came into the world.
From the above perspective very briefly outlined, it isn’t too difficult to tie in the planetary patterns in the sky here-and-now to the static picture of the natal horoscope. You are working, at least in part, with what you can actually see. However, in working with SPs, you are stepping into the mysterious, intangible world of the purely symbolic.
I find that my (metaphorical at least!) understanding of that 4%, 23% and 73 % ratio is very helpful in feeling comfortable with such mysterious territory. That which cannot be seen, perceived or understood via our five senses within the 4% world of matter, still has energetic validity in the landscape of the unseen 96% – that which modern science tells us is there, although we can only perceive it by inference and don’t yet know what it is.
Secondary progressions and family inheritance
The most striking example of the mysterious power of SPs that I have ever had, occurred a number of years ago when I was playing around with the weave of interconnectedness which you find as soon as you begin to spend time looking at family horoscopes.
Having acquired the birth certificates of all four of my grandparents, three with accurately recorded birth times, and having calculated their horoscopes, I took a notion to progress the birth charts of the two grandparents who had been most significant for me, and whose characteristics I most clearly recognised blended in myself, ie my maternal grandfather Calum and my paternal grandmother Isabella – both born in different years at different times. I progressed their charts, both with accurate birth times, to the day of my own birth.
The result stunned me. BOTH grandparents’ progressed Ascendants were 9 degrees Virgo, BOTH progressed Midheavens were 28 degrees Taurus. And my Angles? Yes, you’ve guessed it. My natal Ascendant is 9 degrees Virgo, and natal Midheaven is 28 degrees Taurus. My North Node is also 28 Taurus – and my pre-natal solar eclipse is 28 degrees Taurus, thereby emphasising the significance of the IC/MC axis in the transmission of family fate, karma, genetic inheritance or whatever you wish to term it. I have written about this before, and described my feeling then of having been ‘brushed by the wing of a great Mystery’(2).
Recently, whilst thinking about this article, I re-calculated that set of progressions, just in case I had somehow made a mistake all those years ago. The result was the same.
Part Two of this post follows shortly. As ever, your comments/feedback are most welcome.
This two-part post was first published as Secondary Progressions – stepping into the Mystery in the May/June 2017 Issue of the UK’s Astrological Journal, edited by Victor Olliver.
(1)The Inner Wheel: http://theinnerwheel.com/the-inner-wheel-a-new-look-at-secondary-progressions/
(2) Unfortunately, I can’t now recall where!
1500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2017